Becoming a parent is one of the most beautiful and precious feelings in the world. As a new life comes into the world, people transform and take on a variety of roles that come with their own specific duties and challenges. Childbirth can be overwhelming for many people, especially women, as it takes a toll on them physically and mentally. Another life growing inside the body causes drastic changes to physical appearance, internal hormonal functioning and emotions to the extent that it affects even the people who form a part of the person's life.
Amidst such impacting changes occurring in a person's life, it is easy to let important things take a back-seat. But mental and physical well-being cannot be compromised ever, as they create the hospitable environment needed to go through a demanding period as pregnancy. The ancient practice of yoga can, in many ways, prove to be the appropriate supplement to the crucial pregnancy period. It is a philosophy that seeks to unite the mind, body and soul in order to live a fulfilled life. The poses or asanas along with meditation practiced in yoga can provide the necessary measures needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Yoga can provide a system that focuses on crucial aspects of pregnancy, a period that can also bring difficulties, pain and stress to a person's life. The practice of asanas can help relieve tension from several parts of the body and meditation can help relax the mind, regulate emotions well and keep negativity at bay. Love and compassion are essential emotions of life that everyone deserves to be surrounded by, and it becomes even more important to practice these emotions as a woman and man embark on the journey to become parents.
Here are a few Yoga poses and breathing exercises that pregnant women can rely on to create and sustain a harmonious relationship between the mind, body and environment:
Cat Pose (Marjariasana)
The cat pose is a relatively easy going exercise and requires minimal effort. The practitioner enters the position on their palms and knees, and arching of the back takes place periodically to relieve tension from the neck, shoulders, back and chest, while strengthening of the arms and thighs takes place. It is great for toning the core, relieving tension from the neck and shoulders, increases spine mobility to help the back carry the additional weight, and improving blood circulation.
Standing Sideway Bends with One Arm (Konasana-I)
As the name suggests, the pose is performed by standing slightly beyond shoulder width and bending side to side with one arm. This pose is effective in keeping the spine flexible, making the muscles around the ribs and the obliques strong, and causing relief from a common symptom of pregnancy - constipation.
Bound Angle Pose (BoddhaKonasana)
This pose is performed by opening the legs wide and holding the sitting position, minus the chair. This pose is a strength-builder as it engages the entire body. The legs are especially worked, targeting the entire lower body with its quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and all major joints.
Butterfly Pose (BadhaKonasana)
The butterfly pose is one of the most popular exercises in yoga which is performed by sitting down on the mat, folding and joining the legs at the feet while tucking them close in to the groin. Flapping and stretching the legs help increase blood flow to the pelvic region and increase flexibility, strengthening the knees and relieving pain. It is also helpful in reducing fatigue and facilitate delivery.
Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
A simple but effective exercise, ViparitaKarani is performed by lying on ones back while keeping the full length of the legs against a wall. It helps relieve backache, improves blood flow to the pelvic region and reproductive organs, while also easing swollen ankles and varicose veins, another common symptom of pregnancy.
Yogic Sleep (Yoga Nidra)
Essentially a meditative practice more than a physical exercise, Yoga Nidra is a method where a person lying still (in Shavasanaor the Corpse Pose) simply guides their attention, without moving any muscles), gradually towards their toes, feet, legs, over across the entire body. It calms the mind and reduces tension and anxiety, regulates blood pressure and causes deep relaxation.
Bee Breath (Brahmari Pranayam)
A simple meditative technique that emulates the humming sound made by hovering bees, this method is a great way to relax the mind, become aware of the sensations in ones body, and even regulate blood pressure while causing relief from headaches.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (NadiShodhan Pranayam)
This easy breathing exercise is done by simply using alternating nostrils to inhale and exhale from. It causes an immense feeling of calmness, while regulating body temperature and improving blood oxygen levels to ensure healthy organ functioning.
Important points to note
These exercises and breathing techniques can lend a hand to pregnant women in a holistic manner, providing the right amount of physical activity, while necessitating the appropriate conditions for a healthy and happy baby to be born. While yoga is a great practice to inculcate, there are a few things to be kept in mind.
Pregnant women should avoid poses that exert pressure on the stomach during advance stages of pregnancy, while also reducing the intensity and duration nearing time of delivery. Inversion poses should also be avoided.
In such times it is recommended that pregnant women practice yoga under the supervision of a trained professional.
Consult the doctor before starting prenatal yoga, and start as early as possible, ideally during the first trimester itself, as it can get difficult further down the road. All in all, yoga thus can be the right supplement to help prepare women for becoming mothers while also ensuring that they remain healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.
(By -- Meenakshi Mohanty, Fitness Expert)
DISCLAIMER: Seek guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional before practicing any yoga poses during pregnancy. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment but rather an expert suggestion.